Commentary

Not Dead Yet: Boomers Still Wield Significant Buying Power

I was recently in a media presentation where they showed an image of “baby boomers” as two older, very gray adults. 

The only positive point of the image was that the boomers were smiling. 

I immediately thought, this is the problem: Media companies and some brands are portraying this very lucrative group as old and behind the times. Couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Or, brands choose to focus on youth because they believe that will be a more positive image than showing those who are “over the hill.”

I believe this thinking is flawed. The process must start with understanding the consumer insights so you can create the right message, and then determine the right place and time to reach them.

The 50+ group represents a third of the U.S. population, and accounts for $3.2 trillion of U.S. consumer expenditures. 

According to a recent report from the Video Advertising Bureau, 77% of older adults feel their age group is being ignored by advertisers. Certainly a missed opportunity for brands. 

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The majority of boomers are still working, with 55% of them in the professional, management, and sales industries. They enjoy their work and it keeps them active.  

Boomers spend the majority of their money on housing, healthcare, food -- in and out of the home, and vehicles, according to the Video Advertising Bureau. Brands in these categories can grow even bigger if they simply make sure their messaging resonates with those 50+.

This group is only going to get larger, so what should companies do to become the 50+ target brand of choice?

Brands

  • Invest in research to determine how, where, why, and when customers use your product, especially those who are 50+. Within the 50+ group, take into consideration that there are three sub-segments: pre-retirees (age 50-62), active retirees (63-74) and seniors (75+).
  • Dig into your customer purchase data to glean insights. It’s possible that the various segments may use the product differently.
  • To encourage diverse thinking, ensure your marketing department is a cross-team of Gen Z, millennials, Gen X and boomers.

Agencies

  • Analyze the research to understand if there’s the opportunity to segment messaging to represent all users of the brand’s product.
  • Demonstrate to the brand that one size does not necessarily fit all. Bring the story to life, and  focus on attitudes.  
  • Engage with positive, real-life experiences. Boomers seek opportunities for personal growth and discovery, and ways to take control of and enrich their lives. 
  • Do your homework so ads appear in the right place at the right time. Don’t forget that boomers are big users of video, crossing multiple screens and platforms.

Brands that are taking boomers seriously include: 

  •  L’Oreal, with Helen Mirren hitting age head-on.   
  •  AARP, with an ad that suggests “the rules of aging are changing.” 

Hey, if Jon Bon Jovi and the Boss are still rocking it, so are their audiences. As 76-year-old Mick Jagger sings: “Start me up!” Living isn’t just for the young.

4 comments about "Not Dead Yet: Boomers Still Wield Significant Buying Power".
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  1. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, October 1, 2019 at 5:54 p.m.

    Good perspective on the boomer market and the importance of having age diversity in the marketing department. 

    What is missing is that this group is where the wealth (net worth) of Americans is concentrated. Makes this group potentially even more important than their relative income and/or spending. 

  2. Leo Kivijarv from PQ Media, October 2, 2019 at 2:13 p.m.

    This was the same position NBC Universal took a few years ago on Alpha Boomers based on research that PQ Media completed for them. Analysis of TV advertising, for example, showed that only 5% of all ads were targeted to anyone over 50, primarily medical and financial products. Yet, Baby Boomers often spend more on other products, like automobiles, than any other generation. As famed advertiser Jerry Della Femina once stated, advertisers kill over 10,000 people a day when they turn 50. 

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 2, 2019 at 3:50 p.m.

    Leo, one thing to remember in defense of advertiser targeting is that the main TV buying demos are all about GRP guarantees not targeting. Most corporate TV buys which use 18-49 or 25-54 GRPs as their "currency" do so out of habit and for long term trending. Many of the brands included in such buys do, indeed, get lots of business from adults aged 50 or 55+ but they are confident that TV, with its demo slant being what it is, will deliver an abundance of older adult audience "impressions" What's more older adults are used tom the fact that most commercials focus on younger-middle aged consumers as their main characters and the  settings or situations depicted. Why? BecaueWhat advertisers often see from their commercial impact research is that older viewers, which they reach in relative abundance are often just as likely as younger ones to get their messages and be motiveted by them---even if the commercials seem to play mainly on young themes and rarely star oldsters. At the end, its the message that counts not only the way it is conveyed. If a commercial is able to trigger a positive response by virtus of its message and the credibility of same to an older viewer what's the problem? On the other hand, might younger viewers be turned off---perhaps fatally for the brand's image--if they see many ads where old folks are prancing around, acting like teenagers or worse, old folks in sterotypical doddering situations endorsing the product? That possibility scares many brands off the idea of doing many old folk's commercials. Some compromise by including oldsters in with their younger-oriented scenarios--which works ---sometimes.

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 2, 2019 at 3:54 p.m.

    Sorry for those typos in my last reply. I've been getting pretty good re my typing but an editing function on MP would be more than welcome---Joe?

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